Photo: Laurie Caffery Harris

Hi, I'm Kate!

I have a POTS – and a lot of strong feelings about medicine's treatment of women throughout history. Welcome to Hysterics.

Horror Films to Get You Through This Horrorshow

Horror Films to Get You Through This Horrorshow

I’m ready to make the call. Fall is finally here. If you’re anything like me, the first lick of cold air means its time to watch every horror movie you can get your hands on – and not stop until Thanksgiving rolls around (jk, never). Admittedly, I can be a little bit of a pain in the ass when it comes to horror movies. My town has an old school movie rental shop where my partner and I will spend up to an hour deliberating in the horror section. We have very different taste. I have a deep love for 1970s foreign films, the more surreal the better, whereas my partner actually enjoys plot and is less into psychological torture than I am.

To make the decision harder, this Halloween season also carries the weight of our current political climate. After studying the way that politics pop up in horror films, I’ve been suspicious of anything coming out in the Trump era. When you think about it, horror films are just our collective way to working through the things that scare us the most as a culture. When we are polarized, both sides terrified of the other, it can lead to some really interesting moments in horror.

I could talk about the politics of horror forever (I literally gave y’all a footnote below), but the real-world application of this is to give you all a rundown of badass horror films that won’t depress you, victimize you or make you feel hopeless. These are the films that I revisit every time I lose hope in the genre that gives me so much life, especially in this, the greatest season of the year. Read on for my shortlist of radical, female driven horror films to get you through this fucked up fall.

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Mandy (2018)

Find yourself a man who you can wield like a giant battle ax against the patriarchy – bonus points if he casts it himself.

Mandy (2018)

Ok. Hear me out. What I love about this film is that its rooted in Mandy herself – she is driving the entire plot, even after she stops appearing on screen. Mandy’s character is developed more than any other, she is a creative force and obvious protagonist. The director, Panos Cosmatos, refers to Mandy as a demi god who’s will determines the world around her. In the end, this film is the story of a demi goddess who laughs in the face of her narcissistic rapist and sends her own Reaper (Red) out to seek revenge on those who wronged her. For any women currently feeling conflicted about their relationships with men in their life, Mandy might be the catharsis we all need. It makes a certain sense that Nic Cage is the symbol of feminist alliance that I’ve been looking for. If Mandy taught me anything it’s to find yourself a man who you can wield like a giant battle ax against the patriarchy – bonus points if he casts it himself.

Watch Here (Amazon Prime)

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Grab a glass of wine, enjoy the perfect weaponization of houseplants, and go on this ride. You will feel vindicated as hell.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

This is, admittedly, in my top 5 favorite horror films of all time. I adore this time period in American horror mainly because of how fucked up the country was at the time. Each iteration of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, 1978, 1994, 2007) has been a barometer of their political climates and this one really resonates with the parallels between today and the rise of neoconservatism in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Whether or not they were intended as political allegory stands to question, but that’s the case with most art. In any case, the 1978 version is also a great illustration of gaslighting. Elizabeth (played by mega babe Brooke Adams) is faced with a seismic shift in her reality, nothing is quite right but nothing is dramatically wrong. She spends the majority of the film convincing the men around her that the world is actually crumbling around them and (surprise surprise) they don’t realize it until they are faced with it themselves. Grab a glass of wine, enjoy the perfect weaponization of houseplants, and go on this ride with Elizabeth. You will feel vindicated as hell.

Watch Here (Amazon Prime)

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

This is a feminist, vampire western with a killer soundtrack, a deeply relatable protagonist, and a well-paced love story at its center.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

I can’t promise this film won’t trigger you, some of the initial scenes involve sexual assault. I can promise you that it is used for all the right reasons. Ana Lily Amirpour introduces an old trope, the exploitative sexual assault of a sex worker, only to then turn it right on its head with her protagonist: a skateboarding female vampire who wears her hijab like a cape and stalks the streets looking for men to feast upon. You get the idea. This is a feminist, vampire western with a killer soundtrack, a deeply relatable protagonist, and a well-paced love story at its center. I waffle on whether or not this is even a horror film, but it is an essential in the canon of women taking the genre into their own hands.

Watch Here (Shudder)

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Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013)

This is as much fairy tale as it is horror, with the colonizer standing in for the big bad wolf gobbling up native children and spitting them back out as traumatized adults.

Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013)

Not enough human beings have seen this film. I see it as my personal mission to champion it. Jeff Barnaby’s revenge story is centered around Aila, a teenage girl living on the Red Crow Mi’kmaq reservation. This is as much fairy tale as it is horror, with the colonizer standing in for the big bad wolf gobbling up native children and spitting them back out as traumatized adults. Barnaby has caught a lot of criticism for this simplification of residential school system but his inclusion of dynamic Native characters like Aila show that he is making all of these decisions consciously. Growing up on the Listuguj Reserve in the 1980s, Barnaby was present for the raids of the Listuguj Mi’kmaq First Nation by the Surete du Quebec. Rhymes for Young Ghouls is in direct conversation with these raids. Barnaby creates a hero to tear down the oppressive systems against First Nations people and in his own words his hero had to be a young girl. This is a film about cultural survivance and radical defiance and it is not only directed by a First Nations filmmaker but stars incredible Native actors. Support it and help me spread the gospel.

Watch Here (Netflix)


You Asked For It: My Two Cents on Politics In Horror

Conservative political climates can create some of the best horror films, but they are also loaded with a lot of baggage: The slasher film of the Reagan era is really just toxic masculinity and moral policing on steroids and reactions against second wave feminism often included hysterical women literally destroying the lives of their families with their uteruses (see The Brood and Possession.) So, I’ve been curious, and hesitant, to see what comes out of the Trump administration. With people in power that perceive women as a deceitful, evil hoard out to destroy innocent men, I can’t wait to see how women are portrayed in horror films in the coming years.

On the flipside, hyper-conservative political climates also give radical directors free reign to push boundaries. Poking the bear becomes a lot more fun. Plus, anything related to “outsider” culture sells much better in a time when people don’t feel heard. We like catharsis and to feel like we are part of a community of weirdos. For all of its extremism, the horror genre is not as immune to capitalism as some might think and it’s not above pandering to that.

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